Assembling the HESCO MIL units entails unfolding it and filling it with sand, soil or gravel, usually using a front end loader. The placement of the barrier is generally very similar to the placement of a sandbag barrier or earth berm except that room must generally be allowed for the equipment used to fill the barrier. The main advantage of HESCO barriers, strongly contributing to their popularity with troops and flood fighters, is the quick and easy setup. Previously, people had to fill sandbags, a slow undertaking, with one worker filling about 20 sandbags per hour. Workers using HESCO barriers and a front end loader can do ten times the work of those using sandbags.
The HESCO barriers come in a variety of sizes. Most of the barriers can also be stacked, and they are shipped collapsed in compact sets. Example dimensions of typical configurations are 1.4 m × 1.1 m × 9.8 m (4.6 ft × 3.6 ft × 32.2 ft) to 2.1 m × 1.5 m × 30 m (6.9 ft × 4.9 ft × 98.4 ft).
A new system of HESCO MIL Concertainer developed specially for military use is deployed from a container, which is dragged along the line of ground where the barrier is to be formed, unfolding up to several hundred metres of barrier ready for filling within minutes.